Agnellus of Ravenna, in his Liber Pontificalis Ecclesiae Ravennatis, written in Latin, refers to the foundation and decoration of several churches and monasteria dedicated to *Theodore (soldier and martyr of Amaseia and Euchaita, S00480), *Martin (ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397), *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), and *Paul (the Apostle, S00009) in Ravenna (northern Italy). He claims these events took place between 475 and 691. Account written in Ravenna in 830/846.
Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)
Agnellus of Ravenna
Agnellus of Ravenna, Liber Pontificalis Ecclesiae Ravennatis 119
Tempore namque illo aedificatum est monasterium beati Theodori diaconi a Theodoro patricio non longe a loco qui uocatur Calchi, iuxta ecclesiam beati Martini confessoris qui uocatur Caelum aureum, quam Theodoricus aedificauit rex, sed sub potestate istius pontificis relatus. Fecit supradictus patricius et exarchus calices aureos tres in hac sancta Rauennata ecclesia, qui sunt in praesentem diem.
Cotidie que concurrebat ad monasterium sanctae Mariae qui uocatur Ad Blachernas, ubi Deo uolente ego abba existo; et ibidem requiescit cum Ageta coniuge sua. Et fecit thecam super ipsius altare uirginis ex blatta alithino preciosissimam, habentem historiam quomodo Deus fecit caelum et terram et creaturas mundi et Adam et progenies illius. Quis similem conspexit? Deo fauente usque hodie permanet.
Ecclesia uero beati Pauli apostoli, posita est prope Wandalariam, ipse cum isto pontifice exaltauerunt et adauxerunt, quia antea sinagoga Iudeorum describebatur.
‘In his reign the monasterium of St Theodore the deacon was built by the patricius Theodore, not far from the place called ad Calchi, next to the church of St Martin the confessor, which is called the Golden Heaven, which King Theoderic built, but restored under the power of that bishop [Theodore, Bishop of Ravenna, 677-691]. The said patricius and exarch made up three gold chalices for this holy church of Ravenna, which exist up to the present day.
And daily he [Theodore the patricius] went to the monasterium of St Mary which is called ad Blachernas where by the will of God I am abbot, and there he rests with Agatha his wife. And he made a most precious purple colouring over the altar of the Virgin, having on it the story of how God made heaven and earth and the creatures of the world and Adam and his progeny. Who has seen its like? God being favourable, it remains up to today.
The church of the blessed apostle Paul was placed near Wandalaria; he with that bishop raised it up and increased it, since formerly it was described (discribatur) as a synagogue of the Jews.’
Text: Deliyannis 2006. Translation: Deliyannis 2004.
Ceremony of dedicationCult Places
Cult building - independent (church) Non Liturgical Activity
Cult building - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)
Cult building - monastic
Burial ad sanctosProtagonists in Cult and Narratives
Construction of cult buildings
Renovation and embellishment of cult buildings
Appropriation of older cult sites
Ecclesiastics - bishops
Monarchs and their family
SourceAgnellus of Ravenna (ob. c. 846) was a deacon of the cathedral in Ravenna and – by hereditary right – abbot of two monasteries in Ravenna. He wrote his Liber Pontificalis Ecclessiae Ravennatis between 830 and 846, following the model of the Roman Liber Pontificalis. This work provides biographies of all the bishops of Ravenna from the legendary founder bishop Apollinaris to those active in Agnellus’ own day, and was originally composed to be delivered orally, most likely to clerics of Ravenna. This text is preserved in two manuscripts: one from the 15th c. (Bibliotec Estense Cod. Lat. 371 X.P.4.9.) and a fragmentary manuscript from the 16th c. (MS Vat. Lat. 5834). Agnellus bases his account of the lives of late antique bishops on documents preserved in Ravenna, stories which had been transmitted orally, and his own experience of the architectural landscape of 9th c. Ravenna.
Agnellus' work contains invaluable architectural and art historical information about Ravenna: Agnellus refers to several religious buildings in Ravenna and the neighbouring settlements of Caeserea and Classe. He describes their decoration and preserves several inscriptions, many of which are now lost to us. It must be remembered this is a 9th c. work. Agnellus’ descriptions of buildings and their fixtures is based on his 9th c. experience, and not late antique reality. Indeed, his accounts of the events of earlier years are often riddled with inaccuracies. Yet it is likely that his descriptions of the churches of Ravenna are more trustworthy. As Deborah Mauskopf Deliyannis argues, a comparison of surviving late antique mosaics with Agnellus’ account suggests that his descriptions were largely accurate. This is limited to what he does tell us – for example Arian foundations are often ignored whilst orthodox foundations are emphasised. Yet, overall, this text provides invaluable information about the cult of saints in late antique Ravenna.
DiscussionIt is probable Agnellus gained this information through textual sources, inscriptions and personal experiences with the objects described. Specifically, Deborah Mauskopf Deliyannis suggests that Agnellus learned that the church dedicated to Paul had previously been a synagogue from a document, as the word describebatur implies a written source.
The church dedicated to Theodore is now known as Spirito Santo. In Arian times, it was likely dedicated to the Anastasis (the Resurrection), but it is possible there was confusion over this dedication and one to *Anastasia, either the martyr of Rome (S00602) or in Sirmium (S00769). Deliyannis suggests this confusion may have been deliberate, and a comparable case can be found in the dedication of an altar to the Anastasis or Anastasia in the Basilica Ursiana in Ravenna (see E05778). Several modifications were made to this foundation in the 10th c. and it was bombed in the 1930s and 1940s. After this destruction, an effort was made to restore this cathedral to its original form, which is what we see today. It is probable that the Arian basilica had single aisles, colonnades with seven columns. Its likely dimensions are 28.3 metres x 18.5 metres. It is therefore much smaller than other basilicas built in a similar time in Ravenna. It was built from many new 6th c. bricks as well as earlier Roman bricks (spolia).
J. M. Stansterre and E. Morini have both argued convincingly that, throughout Agnellus’ account, monasterium can used to mean any foundation – for example a chapel or church – dedicated to a saint. It does not necessarily refer to a monastery. As such, the original Latin is preserved in this record.
A reconstruction of this foundation and maps showing the likely locations of the foundations in Classe and Ravenna are attached to this record.
Deliyannis, Deborah Mauskopf, Agnelli Ravennatis Liber pontificalis ecclesiae Ravennatis (Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis 199; Turnhout, 2006).
Deliyannis, Deborah Mauskopf, The Book of Pontiffs of the Church of Ravenna (Washington D.C., 2004).
Deichmann, Friedrich Wilhelm, Ravenna, Hauptstadt des spätantiken Abendlandes, vol. 1-3, (Wiesbaden, 1958-89).
Deliyannis, Deborah Mauskopf, Ravenna in Late Antiquity (Cambridge, 2010).
Mackie, Gillian, Early Christian Chapels in the West: Decoration, Function and Patronage (Toronto, 2003).
Moffat, Ann, "Sixth Century Ravenna from the Perspective of Abbot Agnellus," in: P. Allen and E.M. Jeffreys (eds,), The Sixth Century – End or Beginning? (Brisbane, 1996), 236-246.
Morini, E., "Le strutture monastische a Ravenna," in: Storia di Ravenna, 2.2, Dall’età bizantia all’ età ottania, ed. A. Carile (Ravenna, 1992), 305-312.
Schoolman, Edward, Rediscovering Sainthood in Italy: Hagiography and the Late Antique Past in Medieval Ravenna (Basingstoke, 2016).
Stansterre, J. M., "Monaci e monastery greci a Ravenna," in: Storia di Ravenna, 2.1, Dall’età bizantia all’ età ottania, ed. A. Carile (Ravenna, 1992), 323-329.
Verhoeven, Mariëtte, The Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna: Transformations and Memory (Turnhout, 2011).
|ID||Name||Name in Source||Identity||S00008||Paul, the Apostle||Paulus||Certain||S00033||Mary, Mother of Christ||Maria||Certain||S00050||Martin, ascetic and bishop of Tours, ob. 397||Martinus||Certain||S00480||Theodore, soldier and martyr of Amaseia and Euchaita||Theodorus||Certain|
Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Frances Trzeciak, Cult of Saints, E05790 - http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=E05790